Solvay has launched the production of torrefied biomass at an industrial scale in the United States, run by the recently created Solvay Biomass Energy joint venture between Solvay and U.S. company New Biomass Energy NBE.
The biomass is produced in Quitman, Mississippi at a plant that was built and developed by NBE. Solvay will provide its industrial expertise to more than triple annual production capacity to 250,000 tons by the end of 2014 from 80,000 tons currently. Solvay Biomass Energy will use by-products, such as sawmill residues, from the timber industry in the area’s managed forests. Solvay Biomass Energy, majority-owned by Solvay’s business unit Solvay Energy Services, is in charge of the plant’s operations and maintenance, feedstock sourcing, logistics and technology as well as of the product’s marketing mainly to energy producers in Europe and Asia.
Torrefied biomass, which handles and burns similarly to coal, is produced through torrefaction, a process that modifies the chemical properties of waste wood and biomass. Torrefied biomass can immediately and practically substitute coal, and it reportedly contains 35% more energy by weight than wood pellets, which yields significant logistical benefits to customers.
Solvay said it is improving the water repellent properties of torrefied biomass to further enhance its storage and handling properties.